Chiapas: Part Two
With our time winding down in San Cristobal and quite a few things still left on our list of things to see in Chiapas, we had two choices. We could wake up, hop in a tour van, drive four hours, jump out, take a few pictures, get back in, repeat, repeat, repeat, drive back four hours, and feel like merely spectators. The other option was to spend a few days in the city of Palenque and dedicate a day to each of the last three sights on our list. You probably already know which option we went with.
Palenque is small, roughly 100,000 people small. There’s not much to the city, but it had a bed, cheap food, and was a gateway to some of the state’s best wonders. The major downside to Palenque was the weather. Maybe it was the time of year we were here, but it was the most humid place we had ever been. All day long, even if you are sitting still, you are marinating in your own sweat, a constant layer of moisture covering every inch of your body. It feels like you’re living in the two inches between water boiling in a pot and the lid covering it. Luckily, two of our things to do involved submerging ourselves in water (not boiling) to escape the heat.
Our first full day in Palenque, we headed to the Misol Ha waterfall. We took the thirty minute ride from town to the waterfall in a collectivo van ($4.27), then walked the last mile to the entrance ($3.20 entrance fee). We spent a good portion of the day hanging around the falls, swimming at its base, and getting sunburn (more about the sunburn in a bit).
After spending a day cooling off at the base of the waterfall, we felt much more prepared to deal with the heat and humidity for a few...no, we were once again drowning in our own perspiration after two blocks of walking through town. The next day, we set out to see just how much sweat two people could produce in one day. We hailed a collectivo ($2.14) to the nearby ruins (just 15 minutes outside of town, $11.11 for the entrance fee) that bear the same name as the city itself. Though this was the third ruins site we had visited in the last month, each was unique. The architecture and surroundings were each very different from the last. The Palenque ruins had us in the middle of the jungle, the very humid jungle. It seemed as though the jungle could retake these ruins at any given moment. We hiked up and down every structure and what seemed like every inch in between. 16 liters. That’s our best estimate for much we sweated during our two hours at the ruins.
The next day we needed relief from the heat and humidity, so we set out to go swimming at another waterfall. The heat actually isn’t so bad if you know you’re heading to hang out at the base of a waterfall for half of the day. It also helps if that waterfall is a series of crystal clear blue cascades. We were headed to Agua Azul, a place that was at the top of our list of things to see in Mexico. The walk to the collectivo station that day was much easier knowing where we were headed. It didn’t even matter that our clothes felt like we had just pulled them directly from the washing machine and put them on. We shared the hour and a half collectivo ($5.34 for 2 people) with two fellow travelers from Singapore. No air conditioning, but it didn’t matter. Soon we would be swimming in the beautiful blue waters that awaited us. The collectivo dropped us off at the road that leads to the falls, and we quickly grabbed a taxi ($2.67) to take us the rest of the way. We paid our admission fees ($5.34) and eagerly headed towards the turquoise paradise. Once we finally got a glimpse, we were left speechless…
Apparently, it had rained...a lot the night before and Agua Azul turned into Agua Mierda. We sat there for awhile, looking away every few minutes hoping to look back and see the perfect blue waters we had dreamt of. After a few dozen times, we realized it probably wasn’t going to happen. There was nothing to do except head back to town.
(Image on the left provided by www.aboutespanol.com is what Agua Azul is suppose to look like, image on the right is what it looked like when we arrived)
If you’re laughing at our expense, just wait... it gets better. Remember the sunburn we mentioned while we were at Misol Ha? Well, I’m sure you can guess which of the two of us had it (not the one who was constantly being mistaken as a Mexican). That night, Andy was hit with a bout of Hell’s Itch. If you’ve never heard of it... first, congratulations. Second, look it up. The late night attack led to a 2:00 AM walk across town to the nearest 24-hour pharmacy for the closest thing resembling Benadryl. Trying to explain what’s going on and purchasing medication in the middle of the night is not something you expect to do as you’re going through your Duolingo lessons.
Our last day in Palenque coincided with the end of our first month away from home. Swimming in waterfalls, amongst the mountains of Chiapas already made the chaos of Mexico City feel like such a distant memory. Chiapas got us away from the bigger cities and allowed us to explore more of the natural beauty of Mexico, a trend we hoped to continue on the Yucatan Peninsula.